Sabrina Ionescu didn’t get the Hollywood ending she wanted at the Final Four.
But the Oregon women’s basketball star did get to walk the red carpet with some of the world’s top athletes at the ESPYs on Wednesday night at the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles.
Ionsecu was nominated for two awards — “Best College Athlete” and “Best Record-Breaking Performance” — after leading the Ducks to the Final Four for the first time in program history.
Duke star Zion Williamson, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s NBA draft, took home the statuette for best college athlete. Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray, the 2018 Heisman Trophy winner, and UCLA softball star Rachel Garcia, who led the Bruins to the Women’s College World Series title, were the other nominees.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees won the best record-breaking performance category for passing Peyton Manning’s 71,940 career passing yards to move to the top of the NFL’s all-time list. Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (broke NBA single-game 3-point record with 14) and Matthew Boling (first high schooler to break 10 seconds in the 100-meter dash) were also nominated.
Ionescu won two national player of the year awards (Wooden Award, Wade Trophy) and became the NCAA’s all-time leader in triple-doubles, for men or women, during her junior season.
After Oregon lost to eventual national champion Baylor in the national semifinals, Ionescu announced that she would put the WNBA on hold for a year and return for her senior season.
“I think she has an opportunity to impact the game far more as a collegiate this next year than as a pro,” Oregon coach Kelly Graves said during a recent appearance on The Register-Guard podcast. “She’s going to be the face of women’s basketball, arguably already is, and she’s going to have a bigger platform I think as a college senior than she would as a WNBA rookie.”
Ionescu has a chance to become the first player in NCAA history to reach 2,000-plus points, 1,000-plus assists and 1,000-plus rebounds in a career.
The Ducks could enter the 2019-20 season ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press poll with starters Ruthy Hebard, Satou Sabally and Erin Boley also returning.
Oregon lost four-year starter Maite Cazorla to the WNBA, but USC graduate transfer Minyon Moore will join forces with Ionescu in what may be the top backcourt in the nation.
Guards Taylor Chavez and Morgan Yaeger add depth and experience to the rotation. Redshirt freshman forward Nyarra Sabally, the 6-foot-4 sister of Satou Sabally, adds more size to the lineup, along with 6-6 junior Lydia Giomi.
Graves’ 2019 recruiting class adds to the team’s international flavor with the arrival of guards Jaz Shelley (Australia), Holly Winterburn (England) and forward Lucy Cochrane (Australia).
Sedona Prince, a 6-7 center who was a top-10 prospect in the 2018 class, announced last week that she is seeking a transfer from Texas to Oregon.
Ionescu and Hebard will play with UConn’s Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Christyn Williams on the USA Basketball’s 3x3 women’s team at the U.S. Pan-American Games on July 27-29 in Lima, Peru.